Resource minister Therese Coffey has said the UK’s departure from the EU will not mean an end to working collectively with member states on environmental issues.
Coffey appeared before the Environmental Audit Committee in Westminster with Robin Walker, a minister from the Department for Exiting the EU, to answer MPs’ questions on the future of the natural environment after the Brexit vote.
Coffey said she was “absolutely committed” to the environment, and the Government manifesto had promised to leave office with the environment in a better state than it was before it came to power.
“Not being part of the EU doesn’t mean we won’t work with them,” she said. Walker added: “There is nothing to stop us working multilaterally.”
It was suggested that, with an estimated 80% of environmental regulations originating from the EU, there was a danger that withdrawal might result in many being thrown out.
Walker said it was too early to talk about the process of how legislation affected by EU membership would be dealt with: “No-one suggests it would be a good idea to scrap all the legislation to date.”
Coffey repeated there was no desire “to make things worse”.
The minister said she thought Defra had the right balance of knowledge and skills to prepare for exit. She told MPs some extra staff were being recruited and “we recognise the scale of the issue”.
“We will make sure we have the resources,” she said.
Coffey confirmed that the referendum result had prompted the postponement of Defra’s 25-year departmental plan until next year, although she said the framework for the plan was expected “shortly”.